Welcome! This blog documents my experience as a Nancy Germeshausen Klavans Cultural Bridge Fellow with the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development during my studies at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The views expressed are solely my own and are written to share experiences, introduce issues, and initiate conversation. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Gbarpolu: The challenge of inaccessibility

Here are some photos of our journey to arrive at the village of Nyaluwai. The trip in the car consisted of a 2 hour drive on pot-holed pavement and 2 hours on an off-road path through the trees. 7 of us crammed into the SUV - 4 squeezed in the backseat with 2 grown men in the passenger seat. Not exactly comfortable, but it sure beat walking all day and night as most villagers would do to make it into town.

The trip was reminder of the dire need for infrastructure investment - not only for the horribly damaged roads of Monrovia, but also for the rural communities that will find it nearly impossible to move forward with education, health, and agriculture without the increased accessibility provided by bridges and a more reliable road network. Take for example the efforts to install a much needed water pump for drinking water: villagers carried the cement and supplies on their backs for nearly a day to get them to the Nyaluwai.

Canoes, pot-holes, and dilapidated bridges: adventurous for a weekend excursion... extremely constraining as a way of life.

Moses, Henry and Ernest (our guides and our driver) rebuilding a section of the bridge.

PHEW! Our 4-wheeler made it across the bridge, thanks to the unbelievable driving skills of Ernest. If you look closely, you will notice one of the planks breaking just behind the driver's side rear tire. Also, you can see the "no guns" sticker on the driver's side door, another reminder of the country's recent conflict.

The canoes that carried us across the St. Paul River from Bong County into Gbarpolu County - the final leg of the journey to reach, by far, the most inaccessible and isolated village I have ever been privileged to visit. The canoes are large, hollowed out tree trunks with rungs inserted for seats. They are paddled by one (extremely strong) man who uses a small, hand carved paddle (about 2-3 feet long) to maneuver across a river boasting quite a strong current. Impressive, to say the least.

Me, Molly, and Ernest riding across the river. Molly and I, always ready to inspire a laugh, are imitating a photo taken of Madam President Sirleaf canoing across the river into Guinea with the Presidents of Guinea and Sierra Leone.

No comments: